Stand Up for Human Rights in Development

3 Steps to Stand Up for Human Rights in Development

December 2016

On the anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we join with communities and civil society groups around the world to call upon development finance institutions, governments, and businesses to stand up for human rights.

Respect for human rights is essential for development. The Declaration on the Right to Development recognizes that States have a duty in both their national policymaking and their international development cooperation to promote universal respect for human rights, and development which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of all. The Declaration affirms that the right to development is predicated on active, free and meaningful participation in development, and in equality of opportunity and the fair distribution of benefits without discrimination. The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights further highlight the requirement that companies and States, including when acting through multilateral financial institutions, undertake human rights due diligence to ensure their investments respect human rights.

Unfortunately, today we continue to see investments in the name of development that do not meet the needs or respect the human rights of poor or marginalized communities. We see a shrinking space for civil society where communities are left out of critical development decisions and their participation is curtailed as countries enact laws restricting fundamental freedoms. We see an environment where human rights defenders who speak out about development proposals find themselves labeled as “anti-development” and subjected to threats, intimidation, detention, and violent attacks.

As we celebrate Human Rights Day, we reaffirm the fundamental proposition of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights – that each one of us is entitled to the full range of human rights, and that it is everyone’s responsibility to uphold them.

We call upon all development financiers to Stand up for Human Rights by taking the following steps:

1) Promote Rights-Respecting Development. Adopt a policy commitment to respect human rights and implement due diligence to prevent human rights violations.
2) Protect Civil Society Participation. Ensure meaningful participation in development processes and promote an enabling environment for civil society.

3) Defend the Defenders. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy on attacks against human rights defenders and enact protocols to prevent and respond to such attacks.

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